Researchers develop empathetic haptic skin capable of detecting complicated touch motions

By Park Sae-jin Posted : April 21, 2022, 16:39 Updated : April 21, 2022, 16:42

[Courtesy of NRF]

SEOUL -- Inspired by a thin and elastic polymeric food wrap product, South Korean researchers have developed an empathetic haptic skin that can detect complicated touch motions such as fondling, stroking, pinching, and twisting to emotionally interact with human counterparts. The artificial skin can be used for the creation of care or pet robots.
Various types of haptic sensors are being developed globally. Sensors capable of detecting pressure and movements are normally produced in a form of a thin elastic film. Many haptic sensors are designed to be transparent so that they can be put on top of a display. The elasticity of sensors is important when they are used to cover joints of robot manipulators and other moving parts.
The National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) said that researchers from the Korea University of Technology and Education, the Kumoh National Institute of Technology, and the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) have worked together to develop the empathetic haptic skin sensor using polyvinyl chloride gel and hydrogel. The artificial skin is transparent and elastic.
The skin sensor with 64 sensing cells is capable of detecting various emotional hand movements such as fondling, tapping, and pinching, according to NRF. Because of its elasticity, the artificial skin can be applied to foldable smartphones with a flexible display as well as prosthetics to help wearers detect touch.
"We think that this empathetic haptic skin will be a foundation technology for pet robots capable of emotionally interacting with human partners and offer a helping hand for children and old people who live alone," NRF said in a statement on April 21. 
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